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Church of Blachernae

Ayvansaray, Istanbul

A few minutes’ walk inland from the Ayvansaray ferry station.

This modest church stands over a sacred spring and has been here since 451. Millions of people have visited over 1,400 years, and couples often come from Greece to get married. Legend has it that a secret tunnel leads from the well chamber about 8km to Ayasofya, which dates from about 400. The current church was built in 1862 and is beautifully proportioned. Every spring a service his held in thanks giving for the defeat of the Avars. The garden is kept in pristine order by its caretakers from ancient Antioch.

The relics were brought back from Jerusalem with the Empress Aelia Eudocia Augusta (c401–460),wife of Theodosius II and a prominent figure in early Byzantine Christianity. They included an icon of the Madonna of the Path Finder Pathfider by St Luke himself. The original is in Mount Athos. Four copies were made. The others went to Cyprus, Russia and Jerusalem.

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Issue 66, December 2023 Turkey’s Centenary Issue
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